It’s Showtime for Robbie Lawler and EliteXC
When you talk to Robbie Lawler, you wouldn't immediately think mixed martial arts fighter.
At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, the soft-spoken Icon Sport champion isn't the most imposing physically.
He doesn't say much.
"I just want to thank everyone for coming out. I'm ready to go and that's it," was all Lawler had to say at yesterday's EliteXC press conference.
Tomorrow night, the unassuming Lawler has a chance to become the biggest star in an organization clearly on the rise. He will step into the cage against Murilo "Ninja" Rua for Rua's EliteXC world middleweight title in the main event of EliteXC: Uprising at the Blaisdell Arena.
Doors open at 2:30 p.m., with the first bout scheduled for 3 p.m. The Showtime broadcast begins at 4 p.m. and is televised live on the East Coast. It will be shown on tape delay in Hawaii at 7 p.m.
Lawler, 25, was once labeled as the Ultimate Fighting Championship's most promising young fighter. At age 20, he TKO'd Steve Berger in the first fight broadcast on cable television in the United States in 2002.
His only loss in his first five contests came when he suffered an injury. But as quickly as he had risen, back-to-back defeats against Evan Tanner and Nick Diaz put Lawler out of the UFC. Just like that, he went from golden boy to nobody.
"I think they gave up on me," Lawler said. "It wasn't that I wasn't great then -- I just wasn't ready."
Lawler doesn't have the personality you'd find from the biggest names in the sport today.
The stars of the mixed martial arts scene are mostly characters like Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Tito Ortiz. Ortiz helped carry the UFC into the spotlight with his trash-talking antics and flag-waving, high-profile cage entrances when he fought in the pre-mainstream days.
Jackson defeated another poster boy, Chuck Liddell, for the UFC light-heavyweight title in May. His sense of humor outside of the Octagon, combined with his chain-wearing, dog-howling antics on the way to it, make him one of the top draws today.
His title fight last weekend against Dan Henderson was watched by 4.7 million people, more than any college football game or NASCAR race broadcast that day.
Yes, mixed martial arts has become that big. The UFC dominates the sport's landscape in the United States, but with popularity comes competition.
EliteXC is shaping up to become the UFC's biggest competition. They have a deal with Showtime Networks Inc. and plan to broadcast a minimum of 14 events in 2008. They are beginning to accumulate some big names in the sport, including the top female draw in America, Gina Carano.
A victory by Lawler makes him the face of an organization ready to go head-to-head with the company that dumped him out of thin air.
"It added a little fuel to my fire," Lawler said.
He won't give you the witty pre-fight comments like Rampage. He won't thrust his face into the camera every chance he gets like an Ortiz.
Instead, he'll let his fists make him the star. And that's perfectly OK with him.
"If Robbie tried to talk a lot it would come off as an act and wouldn't look good," Icon Sport's T. Jay Thompson said. "He's got such an exciting style of fighting that he doesn't need to say much."
Even with everything at stake, the laid-back Lawler didn't disappoint when asked about the magnitude of this event.
"This is just a fight for a belt," Lawler said.
Just like you'd expect him to say.
Doors open 2:30 p.m., first fight at 3 p.m.
World Middleweight Championship
» Murilo "Ninja" Rua (14-7-1) vs. "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (14-4)
Other televised bouts
» Nick Diaz (14-6) vs. "Iron" Mike Aina (9-5-1)
» "Smokin" Joey Villasenor (23-6) vs. Riki Fukuda (8-2)
» Jake Shields (18-4-1) vs. » Charuto Verissimo (7-4)
» Gina Carano (4-0) vs. Tonya Evinger (5-1)
(Streamed live at ProElite.com)
» Albert "Always Bad" Manners (7-6) vs. Tyson Nam (3-1)
» Kala Kolohe Hose (3-1) vs. Jeff "Pee Wee" Cox (0-1)
» Mark Kurano (0-0) vs. Jose "The Bomber" Diaz (0-1)
» Mark Oshiro (8-1) vs. Nui Wheeler (0-0)
» Brandon Wolff (5-2) vs. Chad Klingensmith (4-0)
» Ikaika Choy-Fu (1-1) vs. Justin Buchholz (6-1)
» Chico Cantiberos (2-3) vs. Elias Deloruyes (1-0)
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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Murilo "Ninja" Rua will fight opponent "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler tomorrow.
ProElite purchases Icon Sport
After months of negotiations, ProElite announced the purchase of Icon Sport yesterday at a news conference promoting tomorrow's EliteXC: Uprising show at the Blaisdell Arena.
"Today we are proud to announce that within the last hour we have finalized our deal with Icon," EliteXC Live Events president Gary Shaw said.
ProElite had already bought Rumble on the Rock and the Cage Rage promotions, and announced earlier in the week the acquisition of King of the Cage.
The deal does not affect future Icon events. Icon Sport will still hold shows in Hawaii showcasing Hawaii's top fighters.